California’s recent money woes have unleashed waves of budget cuts throughout the state, and this fall students at UC campuses are feeling the impact.
The California Legislature passed $410 million in budget cuts for the University of California this summer. In response, the UC Board of Regents agreed last July to raise student fees 30 percent from last year.
Despite these increases, the budget problems for UC are far from fixed.
“The fee increase is only one part of the solution. … It was our priority to minimize the damage to student instructional programs,” Admissions Coordinator at the UC Office of the President Hanan Eisenman said.
In an August statement the UCOP Office of Strategic Communications said that due to “California’s declining economic fortunes … the state can no longer provide as generous a subsidy to students,” and that, “a greater contribution from students and parents is required.”
To lessen the burden on students, the Financial Aid Office has committed to fully cover the fee increase for approximately 40 percent of undergraduate students, and to give grants to other students for portions of the increase.
“The total amount of financial aid has increased dramatically [over the last year], since we are covering the increase for all families with $60,000 incomes or less,” UCOP Director of Student Financial Support Kate Jeffery said.
However, many students at UCSB still feel that their aid package this year is not covering as much as it should.
In addition to fee hikes, out-of-state tuition has increased an additional 10 percent, raising the yearly price of attendance a total of $3,450 from last year. Though out-of-state students constitute a small percentage of the population some feel they bear an unequal burden.
“As an international student, it costs so much already. Students who can’t afford [the increase] might have to work more, taking time away from studying which is why we’re here,” second-year biology major Travers McNeice said.
Fernando Ramirez, chair of the Associated Students Student Lobby at UCSB, says he will probably have to get a second job to afford the fee hikes, and is organizing a No Fee Increase campaign. “There are people having to drop out of a public institution like UC because they cannot afford the fee hikes, and that’s not acceptable,” Ramirez said.
“It was done in the summer while the students were not here,” Ramirez said. “They just bowed to pressure from legislation.”
Last July, eight UC students from four different campuses filed a class-action suit against the UC Board of Regents. Comprised of primarily graduate students, the group seeks to halt the fee hikes and refund students’ money from previous fee hikes.
“This is bullshit,” UC Berkeley law student Mo Kashmiri said. “In the [California] constitution, it says public education should be free. With the fee increases, [the regents] have essentially privatized public higher education.” Kashmiri said he could not afford to enroll in the Fall Quarter this year, and awaits the case’s hearing this spring.
Kashmiri and Ramirez are among many other UC students who feel the need to push for legislative action to put a stop to the fee hikes. “I understand that students need to contribute, but enough is enough,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez hopes to eventually reverse the fee hikes, but UC officials are not as optimistic.
“If state budget cuts continue, and if there are further reductions in state subsidies for the UC, I think it’s safe to anticipate further fee increases in the future,” Jeffery said.